That's all to the good. But one aspect of marketing has becomean important problem, and must be addressed carefully by any firmthat is serious about getting its name out. I'm referring to theproblem of client approvals.

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Often, a service firm that is eager to market itself will wantto mention its work on behalf of specific clients. This isperfectly understandable, of course. The problem arises when a firmdoes not explicitly clear this with the relevant clients first.

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The situation becomes especially nettlesome when it involves themedia, because when that happens, a third party is involved—and themedia are not bound to either you or your client. After all, wehave free press in this country, and a story that you pitch to themedia does not offer you anywhere near the kind of control that apaid advertisement does.

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We have occasionally encountered situations where a client givesus the go-ahead to pitch a story based on work the company doingfor its client, only to then have our client's client decide thatproposing such a story is not in its best interests. There isnothing wrong with deciding that you can't publicize a particularstory; the problem is deciding this after you've already alertedthe media to that story.

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Before that particular genie is out of that particular bottle,let me suggest some simple guidelines for you.

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1. Before you speak with a reporter, always check withyour client to make sure the interview subject is okay to discuss.Your client may allow you to speak about a project under certainconditions, and it's best to know what you can and cannot tell areporter before you divulge anything. If possible, try to obtainyour client's guidelines in writing (or via e-mail).

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2. Keep in mind that you never have to do an interviewwith any reporter if you feel your client would be unhappy if youdiscussed projects concerning the client.

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3. Don't feel obligated to answer every question areporter asks you. If you or your client are not willing todisclose certain matters, you do not have to answer.

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4. Don't rely on or expect a reporter to clear anyinformation with your client.

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5. Let your public relations people or firm know if aclient is especially sensitive to the media. As public relationsprofessionals, they will check to see if your client approves pressexposure, and if approval is granted, then they are generally freeto pitch all media, set up interviews and speak freely about theproject. If the client press approval is limited to only one aspectof public relations—perhaps only a particular news release—let yourpublic relations people know at the outset.

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Though some of these points may seem obvious to you now,inadvertently overlooking them later can end up hurting a veryvaluable relationship you have with a client. Accordingly, I willsay it one last time with emphasis: please obtain approval fromyour client—in writing—before approaching the press.

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And, since I hate to end an article on such a doleful note, letme add one more point: if you follow these guidelines, the resultscan actually be wonderful all around. An example is a New YorkTimes story we proposed on behalf of a construction client ofours, John Gallin & Son. Our client had done all of theinteriors work for the new Times Square headquarters of itslongtime client, Ann Taylor. Before we suggested a particular newsangle to the Times, our client made very sure that the angle wasapproved. Not only did Ann Taylor endorse the idea, but wasdelighted when the story came out (as was our client).

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Being very careful can pay big dividends. Not being careful cancause a calamity. The choice is yours.

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David M. Grant is president of LVM Group, apublic relations firm. This column was provided by the New Yorkarea chapter—Society for Marketing Professional Services, whichsponsors the column in Real Estate New York on a quarterlybasis.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the authorand not Real Estate Media or its publications.

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